Magic Mustang Tamer

Dance with the Horse

Halter driving is the most difficult protocol that I teach and what makes it hard is that halter driving is dancing with your horse, and most people don’t know how to dance. That makes it a challenge!

What we have going in our favor is some parts of our brains called mirror neurons. We are hardwired via the mirror neurons to mimic body movements and especially rhythmic movements through visual perception. You are going to watch me and learn by mimicry.

Don’t get out of your chair yet, because we have a little academic activity first. We are going to memorize a pattern. From any one of these three steps, you need to consciously know what the next step is.

  • Step One: Horse walks in a circle around the trainer.
  • Step Two: Horse turns to face up to the trainer.
  • Step Three: Trainer sends the horse on circle the other way.
pattern of halter driving

This is a loop. After Step 3 comes Step 1. This is the whole objective. Nothing more to it. Walk in circle, turn to face up, and go the other way. The turn to face up is turning the head toward the trainer and the tail away from the trainer.

As positive reinforcement trainers, it is quite convenient to reward the horse at the completion of step two, while the horse is facing us. Step two is also a very good behavior pattern to have a strong history of reinforcement. You have control over a horse that is facing you on lead. If you make this behavior reflexive, so that the horse does it without thinking about it, you might be able to stave off some escape behavior in some unforeseen crisis.

Rehearsal Time

Now, go get yourself a lead rope, stand in front of the screen, and practice with me. Let’s give your motor neurons a workout.

I know how hard it is to learn to dance when you are a cerebral person! But it only takes practice. Get someone to be your horse and practice until you look as smooth as the little animation.

You can do this!

Here is an example of teaching the whole sequence in one session. Some parts were not captured in the original footage, but you can see how fast Pete learned this behavior.

Don’t be a perfectionist!

You are going to make errors at first and confuse your partner. I am here telling you that doesn’t matter if you don’t give up. You will get better and your partner will get better. John and Bravo provide a good example of that. Bravo had learned this behavior in Task 21 in the summer of 2019 but had not practiced it since then. I gave him a refresher so that I would have some video of the task being done correctly before you got to see John at work. These partners work it out and end up looking fabulous on the dance floor.

I hope you master this little maneuver. Let me know how it goes and how I could improve the instruction. It was especially fun learning to use Adobe Animate CC to make the little gif! Subscribe and share! Sharing helps horses by promoting least-coercive methods and helps people who are discouraged with their mustang training projects.

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